Who are the best and brightest stars going into the 2022 season? The CFN Preseason All-America Team – the defense.
They’re the top defensive players going into the season – let the hype begin. Along with the 2022 CFN All-America Defense are the rest of the top 12 players at each position.
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Preseason All-America Team: CFN First Team Defensive Ends, Edge Rushers
Will Anderson, EDGE/OLB Jr. Alabama
Arguably the nation’s best football player going into 2022, the star hybrid pass rusher was everyone’s All-American 2021 and should be deep in the mix for the Heisman this time around. He made 102 tackles with 17.5 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss in a steadily unstoppable run, and now he’ll be one of the season’s signature stars.
Andre Carter, EDGE/OLB Jr. Army
The running game always takes center stage at Army, but its pass rusher will be the main man. Carter led the nation in sacks per game in a stellar 44 tackle, 15.5 sack, 18.5 tackle for loss season with four forced fumbles with an interception. He’s 6-7, 260 pounds with a tremendous closing burst from the outside in his hybrid role.
Preseason All-America Team: CFN Second Team Defensive Ends, Edge Rushers
Will McDonald, DE Sr. Iowa State
The 2021 All-American comes into the season as the veteran to rebuild a great defense around – he might just be the best defensive player in the Big 12 if everything goes right. Going into his fifth year, he has 89 career tackles with 29 sacks, 33 tackles for loss, and nine forced fumbles.
Myles Murphy, Jr. Clemson
Possibly the first true defensive end off the board in the 2023 NFL Draft – calling Will Anderson an edge rusher – the 6-5, 275-pound Murphy is a versatile all-around veteran on what should be the nation’s best line. He made 79 tackles with 11 sacks and 26 tackles for loss in his first two seasons – he might get 11 sacks this season.
Preseason All-America Team: CFN Honorable Mention Defensive Ends, Edge Rushers
5. BJ Ojulari, Sr. LSU
6. Zion Tupuola-Fetui, Jr. Washington
7. Isaiah Foskey, DE Jr. Notre Dame
8. Zach Harrison, DE Sr. Ohio State
9. Habakkuk Baldonado, Sr. Pitt
10. Josaiah Stewart, Soph. Coastal Carolina
11. Collin Oliver, Soph. Oklahoma State
12. Derick Hall, Sr. Auburn
Preseason All-America Team: CFN First Team Defensive Tackles
Bryan Bresee, Jr. Clemson
All that’s missing is a healthy season. The 6-5, 300-pound former super-recruit showed off his incredible blend of skills in his first two campaigns, but a knee injury knocking him out last year after getting banged up a bit as a true freshman. When he’s right, he’s too quick and too active to keep contained without a whole lot of attention, making 48 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and 9.5 tackles for loss in his first two seasons.
Jalen Carter, Jr. Georgia
While he was a bit outside of the spotlight with all the stars on last year’s national championship team, it’s not totally wrong to think he might have been the best pro prospect on that historic D. The 6-3, 310-pound new anchor up front made 51 tackles with three sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss in his first two years. His job this season will be to lead another great line.
Preseason All-America Team: CFN Second Team Defensive Tackles
Tyler Davis, Sr. Clemson
Bryan Bresee might be the prototype NFL defensive tackle on the Clemson defensive front, but the 6-2, 300-pound Davis can get after it, too. He wasn’t the recruit Bresee was, but he quickly emerged as a factor as an interior pass rusher and tough run stopper. Injuries limited him at times, but he still made 79 tackles with ten sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss in his first three seasons.
Siaki Ika, Jr. Baylor
Getting into the backfield is nice, and quick, versatile tackles are always great, but a giant brick wall in the middle of the line is what every coach loves. The 6-4, 358-pound Ika transferred in from LSU and gummed up the works for the Big 12 champion defense, finishing with 24 tackles for 3.5 sacks and six tackles for loss. He can’t be moved.
Preseason All-America Team: CFN Honorable Mention Defensive Tackles
5. Tuli Tuipulotu, Jr. USC
6. Keeanu Benton, Sr. Wisconsin
7. Jonah Tavai, Sr. San Diego State
8. Dante Stills, Sr. West Virginia
9. Calijah Kancey, Jr. Pitt
10. PJ Mustipher, Sr. Penn State
11. Zacch Pickens, Sr. South Carolina
12. Scott Matlock, Sr. Boise State
Preseason All-America Team: CFN First Team Linebackers
Jack Campbell, Sr. Iowa
A 6-5, 243-pound tackling machine, Campbell gets to everything, finishing with 143 tackles last season and 177 stops in his first three seasons. He’s not a big pass rusher – two career sacks and eight tackles for loss – but that’s not really his role. He makes up for it with his pass coverage skills, picking off three passes with 12 broken up passes in his last two years.
Noah Sewell, Soph. Oregon
The best all-around linebacker in college football has more than lived up to the prep hype as a do-it-all playmaker for the Duck D over the last two seasons. He started out with a strong 45 tackle season, and it all came together in 2021 with 114 stops with four sacks, 8.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and six broken up passes.
Payton Wilson, Jr. NC State
He has to be 100% coming off a shoulder problem, but assuming he’ll be back to normal, he’ll be the star of an incredible linebacking corps that’s as good as any in college football. Only able to see time in two games last year – making five tackles – he came up with 117 in his first two seasons with 3.5 sacks, 17.5 tackles for loss, and four broken up passes.
Preseason All-America Team: CFN Second Team Linebackers
Justin Flowe, RFr. Oregon
Can he finally catch an injury break? The superstar recruit has all the tools to be a next-level must-have, but he only saw time in one game in 2020 thanks to COVID, and last season was out for most of the year with a foot injury. If he’s right, he’ll combine with Noah Sewell to give the Ducks the nation’s best 1-2 linebacking punch.
Bumper Pool, Sr. Arkansas
One of the key parts in the resurgence of Arkansas football, the 6-2, 232-pound veteran led the team with 125 tackles last season to make it 349 stops with 23 tackles for loss and 16 broken up passes in his four years. He’s not going to rush the passer, but he’ll get in on everything against the run.
Nolan Smith, Sr. Georgia
He hasn’t quite played up to the massive recruiting hype, but he’s been more than fine with 96 tackles in three season with 8.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. With the big loss of talent along the amazing Georgia defense, Smith now goes from being a big part of a national championship to one of the featured stars.
Preseason All-America Team: CFN Honorable Mention Linebackers
7. Jackson Sirmon, Jr. Cal
8. Henry To’o To’o, Sr. Alabama
9. Nick Herbig, Jr. Wisconsin
10. Darius Muasau, Sr. UCLA
11. Brenton Cox, Sr. Florida
12. Vince Sanford, Sr. Air Force
Preseason All-America Team: CFN First Team Cornerbacks
Kelee Ringo, Soph. Georgia
He’ll be forever known as the one who allowed Georgia fans to light the national championship victory cigar with his pick six against Alabama, but the 6-2, 205-pounder is more than just that historic play. With his size, tools, and coverage skills – 34 tackles last season with a sack, two picks, and ten broken up passes – all of the NFL upside is there.
Eli Ricks, Jr. Alabama
The former superstar recruit for LSU moved over to Bama where he’ll instantly be the No. 1 lockdown corner. The 6-2, 190-pounder was banged up and missed half of last year, but he’s back and should be ready to erase half of the field. As a freshman he made 20 tackles with four picks, taking two for scores – he’s about to be that 2020 version for the Tide.
Preseason All-America Team: CFN Second Team Cornerbacks
Kyu Blu Kelly, Sr. Stanford
A favorite among the NFL scouting circuit, the 6-1, 190-pounder has the size, can hit, and he’s coming off his best season yet. The stats matched the tools with 58 tackles, two picks – one for a score – and 11 broken up passes after coming up with 54 stops in his first two seasons.
Clark Phillips, Soph. Utah
The 5-10, 183-pound sophomore isn’t huge, but he can hit, he’s experienced, and he’s fantastic when the ball is in the air. He was strong as a true freshman, and last year he blew up with 61 tackles with two picks and 13 broken up passes. Great with the ball in his hands, he returned two of his four interceptions for scores.
Preseason All-America Team: CFN Honorable Mention Cornerbacks
5. Cam Smith, Jr. South Carolina
6. Riley Moss, Sr. Iowa
7. Denzel Burke, Soph. Ohio State
8. Emmanuel Forbes, Jr. Mississippi State
9. Joey Porter, Jr. Penn State
10. Darrell Luter, Sr. South Alabama
11. Steven Gilmore, Sr. Marshall
12. Cam Hart, Sr. Notre Dame
Preseason All-America Team: CFN First Team Safeties
Jordan Battle, Sr. Alabama
The Crimson Tide secondary is loaded with depth, talent, and options, and Battle should be the leader of the fun. The 6-1, 206-pounder was all over the place as a playmaking strong safety – three of his four picks over the last two years went for scores – with 182 career tackles with a sack, six tackles for loss, five interceptions and 13 broken up passes in three years.
Brandon Joseph, Sr. Notre Dame
Joseph was one of the best defensive backs in the country at Northwestern over the last two seasons – six interceptions in eight games in 2020, and 79 tackles with three picks in 2021 – and now he’s moving over to the Irish defensive backfield. It’s his job to take over for Kyle Hamilton, and he’s one of the few who can do it.
Preseason All-America Team: CFN Second Team Safeties
Antonio Johnson, Jr. Texas A&M
A tall, rangy 6-3, 200-pound safety who came in as a good recruit, he turned into an elite player in 2021 with 79 tackles with a sack, an interception, six broken up passes and 8.5 tackles for loss. Versatile, he’s equally good as a tough run supporter and in pass coverage.
Rashad Wisdom, Sr. UTSA
The two-time First Team All-Conference USA defender might fly under the national radar, but there are few better playmaking safeties. A compact 5-9 and 205 pounds, he packs a big punch with 227 tackles, two sacks, 12 tackles for loss, five interceptions, 13 broken up passes, and four forced fumbles over the last three seasons.
Preseason All-America Team: CFN Honorable Mention Safeties
5. Kenny Logan, Sr. Kansas
6. Teja Young, Jr. Florida Atlantic
7. Antavious Lane, Jr. Georgia State
8. Sydney Brown, Sr. Illinois
9. Jammie Robinson, Jr. Florida State
10. Kelee Ringo, Sr. Georgia
11. Cam Allen, Sr. Purdue
12. Christian Izien, Sr. Rutgers